Mastitis And Clogged Duct In Armpit

By Me & Qi
Mar 15, 2023

What Is A Clogged Milk Duct In Armpit?  

The term "clogged milk duct" typically refers to a blockage of thickened milk or inflammation in the mammary ducts, preventing milk from flowing to the nipple. It can occur during or after breastfeeding.  If this clogged milk duct occurs in the armpit instead of the breast, it is also called ‘Pitties’.


What Is Pitties Breastfeeding?

Pitties Breastfeeding

Pitties Breastfeeding

Pitties is a funny term that has been used to describe a rare experience that some breastfeeding mothers may have. It mostly refers to a build-up of breast milk in the armpits, causing the area to look swollen.

It happens because the tail of the spence extends beyond the breast and into the armpit. Since it's connected to the main milk-producing tissues in the breast, it can sometimes appear swollen due to accumulation of thickened milk. Other causes include engorgement or an infection like mastitis.

Pitties gained popularity due to a viral Twitter post from 2020 that showcased a person with her arm raised, revealing two large lumps filled with breast milk in the armpit. The bravery of many parents has since inspired them to share their own experiences with "pitties" on social media, with some even showing off their unique ability to release milk from their armpits.


What Are The Sign And Symptoms Of Clogged Milk Duct Under Armpit?  

Let's start by discussing the general signs and symptoms of clogged milk ducts before delving into the specifics of armpit clogs. Nursing mothers commonly experience clogged milk ducts, which can cause a variety of symptoms, such as swollen and engorged breasts, red skin, unequal milk supply, nipple blebs or blisters, hard lumps or nodules, and thickened or half-solid breast milk.

Additional symptoms may include a feeling of warmth or heat, sharp and shooting pain in the breasts, breast and nipple itching or peeling. In severe cases, the hard lumps may develop into an abscess that requires surgical removal. For more information, refer to this informative article on the signs and symptoms of clogged milk ducts.

The signs and symptoms of a clogged milk duct in the armpit are mostly similar to those of a regular clogged milk duct. The typical ones include lumps of varying size (from a pea to covering more than half of the breast) under the armpit. These lumps are caused by milk buildup in the ducts and can be influenced by genetics. 

The other symptoms include redness in the armpit area due to inflammation (referred to as "Toxic Heat" in Chinese Medicine) or breast infections like mastitis.


Can You Get Mastitis In Armpit?  

Mastitis is the inflammation or swelling of breast tissue, usually caused by thickened milk accumulation or bacterial infection in breast ducts. Mastitis is not typically found in the armpit, but it does radiate to the armpit from breast occasionally.

Other indications of mastitis include swelling or redness of the breast, a hot feeling of breast skin, a hard lump, and a painful or burning sensation while breastfeeding. If the cause of mastitis is a bacterial infection, it can result in fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, and a feeling of weakness.


What Causes Mastitis Or Clogged Milk Duct?

There are different causes of clogged milk ducts or mastitis under the armpit. A sudden change in the breastfeeding schedule or routine is the primary one. For example, if the mother suddenly increases milk supply by taking lactation supplements or pumping more often, the original ducts may not be able to handle the extra amount of milk, causing blockages.

A change in environment, such as traveling or moving to a new home, can also disrupt the breastfeeding schedule and result in insufficient emptying of the breast, resulting in accumulation of thick milk in the breasts.

Improper latching or feeding position can cause the baby to not effectively drain the milk from the breast, leading to blockages in the ducts. Additionally, wearing tight bras or clothes, appearing of blebs or blisters, lying on the stomach, and exercising vigorously can all play a role.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the accumulation of toxic heat in the breasts can also cause clogged milk ducts. Long-term consumption of rich and fatty foods, emotional stress, and insufficient water intake increase the risk of toxic heat building up.

Please refers to this great article on the details of mastitis and clogged milk duct causes.


What Causes Mastitis Or Clogged Duct In Armpit Then?  

Clogged Milk Duct in Armpit

Clogged Milk Duct in Armpit

  • Breastfeeding And Engorgement

During breastfeeding, clogged milk ducts in armpit area are not an uncommon issue. This may happen due to breast engorgement when milk is not adequately emptied. When the breasts remain full of milk, some of the milk may escape towards the armpit area since breast tissue extends there. This results in formation of clogged milk lumps in armpit.

It is not uncommon among mothers who are in the initial stages of breastfeeding, typically for the first three months. However, as breastfeeding becomes a routine, many of these problems tend to resolve spontaneously.

  • Pregnancy And Hormones

During pregnancy, the levels of hormones responsible for milk production increase 10-20 times. The combination of progesterone, estrogen, and prolactin causes the milk ducts to enlarge significantly and extend the "tails" of breast tissue to the armpit. Mothers with higher level of pregnancy hormones are more likely to have clogged milk duct in armpit.

  • Breast Infection

During an infection or mastitis, the body responds by swelling the milk ducts to protect against pathogens. This is a sign that the immune system is actively fighting the infection.

Occasionally, this swelling of milk ducts can be felt like an egg-sized lumps under the skin, especially in areas like the armpit. It typically subsides once the infection is resolved.


How To Unblock A Milk Duct?

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural way to nourish your baby, but it can also be challenging, especially when you're dealing with a clogged milk duct. This condition can cause discomfort, pain, and even lead to infection if left untreated.

Luckily, there are several ways to unblock a milk duct, and you can try them at home. Firstly, if it is caused by changes in breastfeeding schedule, you can adjust your feeding and pumping habits. Try not to skip any feedings. In case that you do need to increase or decrease milk supply, it is recommended to do it gradually over a couple of days.

It is better to let your baby nurse on the affected breast first or using different breastfeeding positions. If the issue is an incorrect latch, ensure that your baby is latching onto the areola as far as possible and that their chin or nose is pointing towards the blocked duct during breastfeeding.

Another option is to add an extra pumping session to release the extra amount of milk. Using a higher-grade pumping machine or a Haakaa (a new silicone device) can help break up large lumps under the skin.

If it is due to infection, along with regular breastfeeding, antibiotics and painkillers may be necessary to treat the underlying infection causing the pain and discomfort.

For further details, refer to this very detailed article on treating and popping a clogged milk duct.

Finally, you can try Unblock Nursing Tea, which contains a combination of herbs that work together to address the root cause of blocked milk ducts, which is often attributed to toxic heat in the breasts.


How To Unblock A Milk Duct In Armpit?  

While the methods described above can be used to treat clogged milk ducts in the armpit, they may not be as effective. This is due to the fact that the armpit is further away from the nipple pore, making it more challenging to release the clogged milk.

However, there are special techniques that can help to clog milk ducts in the armpit during breastfeeding. These methods include:

  • Use Warm Compresses

One method is to use warm compresses on the affected area. The warmth can help increase blood circulation and promote the flow of milk. You can make a warm compress by soaking a washcloth in hot water and applying it to the affected area (e.g. under armpit) for a few minutes several times a day.

  • Take Warm Baths

Taking warm baths or showers can also be helpful. The warm water helps relax the muscles and promote milk flow.

  • Massage Towards The Nipple

Massaging towards the nipple can be done during breastfeeding or pumping, or when applying a warm compress or bath.  Here is the step-by-step guide for massaging the armpit lumps from breastfeeding.

          • Find a comfortable position, like reclining on a bed or couch.
          • Apply a few drops of extra virgin olive oil to your fingertips.
          • Gently massage the area around the areola and armpit using your fingertips.
      Massage Towards Lymph Nodest

      Massage Towards Lymph Nodes

        • Move on to circular massage movements all around the breast and in the axilla toward the nipple pore, interspersing with gentle fingertip tapping and kneading the breasts and axilla with the backs of your fists.
        • In between massage, use hand expression to express milk from the breast. Decrease the frequency of massage as the milk starts to flow and continue with 1-2 massages for every 3-4 hand expression sessions.
        • Repeat this massage process for 30-45 minutes per breast. Your baby can nurse from the other breast while the massage is in progress.
        • For armpit engorgement or mastitis, another helpful technique is to massage the outer sides of the breasts in upward strokes towards the axilla lymph nodes and massage the inner sides of the breasts towards the breastbone lymph nodes. This will help remove any fluid from the breast and armpit that cannot be released through nipple pore.
  • Unblock Nursing Tea

Clearing a clogged milk duct in the breast can be done in different ways, but the armpit one is the most challenging. The reason is that the blockage is farther from the nipple pore, and it's harder to push out the thickened milk.

In such cases, relying on the body itself to dissolve the clog is often more effective. This is where Unblock Nursing Tea can provide a natural solution by helping to dissolve Toxic Heat from within the body.

It is a mixture of gentle herbs such as licorice, goji berries, dandelion, and honeysuckle that function collectively to tackle the underlying source of blocked milk ducts (toxic heat in the breasts). It also helps alleviate surface symptoms such as breast swelling, redness, sharp pain, and itching.


When Should You See a Doctor for Breast Lumps While Breastfeeding?

If the lump remains persistent and does not change in size or shape, it is advisable to schedule a check-up with your doctor. A persistently blocked duct can lead to serious issues like mastitis or a breast abscess.

In rare cases, a lump in the breast or armpit might indicate something more concerning like breast cancer. To rule this out, your doctor might perform an ultrasound, mammogram, CT scan, MRI scan, or needle biopsy on the lump.

The good news is that none of these procedures should interrupt your breastfeeding journey. With the right care and attention, you can get back to a beautiful bonding experience with your little one in no time. If you are experiencing lumps in your armpits while breastfeeding, don't hesitate to consult with your doctor and take the necessary steps to ensure your health and comfort.



Article tags: Breastfeeding and maternity